February 22, 2018 Lost Creek (Movie Review)
When fall comes to New England, playful children haunt the woods and monsters come alive. Something wicked lurks in the darkness and parents just don’t understand in Lost Creek, a brand-new blend of Drama, Fantasy, and Horror that arrives to Blu-ray/DVD on Tuesday, February 27, 2018, thanks to Gravitas Ventures.
Attempting to adapt to his new home, tween Peter (Oliver Stockman in his acting debut) takes to the woods for some discovery time. There, he quickly meets “crazy” Maggie (Brynna Bartoo in her acting debut), an ‘older woman’ with some knowledge of the woods and what lurks inside them. In an eerily ominous warning, she tells Peter to never cross the creek. Whether as a result of her spooky words and stern tone, or as a direct result of losing his father recently, Peter begins to have nightmares almost instantly.
At school, Peter attempts to confess his recent run of night terrors to his best friend, the freckled Bill (Henry Stockman in his acting debut), who is too busy debating whether he should marry a Poptart or a cheese-danish to truly care. Making matters somehow worse for poor Peter, Bill quips that the woods are haunted by the spirits of those who have died within and that they should be avoided at all costs. Cue the spine-tingles!
With Halloween fast approaching and Peter struggling with his recurrent sleep issues and hearing voices calling out in the night, a further issue develops around town when neighbors begin mysteriously disappearing from their homes. Whatever is happening is fated to culminate on October 31st when Peter, Bill, and Maggie will band together against the darkness to take back the town from the monsters that call the forest home.
Clocking in at 91 minutes in-length, Lost Creek is a directorial debut for Colin Adams-Toomey, who co-wrote the screenplay along with another newbie, Dan John Witherall. The film is an intriguing blend of Drama, Fantasy, and Horror elements that begins as a kind of Bridge to Terabithia middle-grade romp through the woods, evolves into something that is seemingly John Carpenter influenced, and eventually harnesses elements of everything from 2008’s The Strangers to 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (there is a creepy doll that is entirely reminiscent of Barrel). Ultimately, what all this means is that this is a film chock-full of a myriad of eclectic influences, one that plays out more like a Paranormal Drama than anything and yet it is not easily categorized.
It is important to note that Lost Creek entirely rests upon the shoulders of its young main actors – the Stockman brothers and Miss Bartoo – and is an acting debut for all three. As lead character Peter, Oliver Stockman is slightly awkward in all the very best ways; a child living and dreaming way beyond his years. There are moments when he is a bit too over-emphatic for the role or scripted to sound a little too mature for his age, yet it is entirely endearing to Stockman that he never once ruins his character or his stellar performance with these quirks. Instead, he offers up a performance that is admirably worthy of note, guaranteeing that he has a wonderful career ahead of him. Similarly, his lookalike brother Henry is hysterical in the role of the feisty Bill, waxing poetic about toaster pastries and running in fear from figurines. In fact, some of the film’s very best on-screen interactions happen between the brothers, who do a wonderful job of playing off one another organically.
Furthermore, Bartoo, as Maggie, should absolutely not be overlooked, as she does a wonderful job in her role and is entirely natural and fluid in her performance as well; she too has an impressive career ahead of her. Oddly, there are only two adult roles in the film worth noting, Peter’s mother Claire (Lisa Coruzzi: Ouroboros 2014, Christmas Again 2016) and Mr. Vernon (Matthew Lovlie in his acting debut), the substitute teacher. While Lovlie’s on-screen time is mere minutes, he and Coruzzi both do a good job in their roles supporting the young stars of this whimsical production.
The pace here is steady but slower than your typical modern Horror film, as Lost Creek works at building tension rather than shocking you with gore and grotesqueness; in this sense, it takes an old-school approach to its pacing. In fact, Lost Creek is a fantastical homage to the stories that children imagine when adventuring in the woods, presented with a 1970s/1980s stylistic approach to Horror. Interestingly, it might have been fun to see the film shot in muddier tones with a less crisp focus to create a visual, nostalgic feel to fit its old-school mood. Unfortunately, the throwback-style audio effects are a bit cartoony throughout and many of the implied visual effects are simply underdone due to lack of budget. Which is fine: Lost Creek works with what it has and makes the very best of it all, placing the focus instead on the tremendous acting skills and chemistry of its superbly young cast.
In short, Lost Creek is an intriguing little film with a wonderfully bizarre myriad of influences that is never wholly predictable. Considering that this is a directorial debut for Adams-Toomey and an acting debut for nearly the entire cast, one cannot help but be impressed by this film, which is a truly enjoyable viewing experience. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Lost Creek 3 of 5 stars. Oh yeah, stay for the closing credits, as they are set to the exceptional Murder By Death’s “Lost River,” off their 2012 release Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon!